today i read a story in Conspire Magazine, about a fellow named Howard. he lives in Philadelphia, PA and started this activity because he was tired of seeing folks on the street engage in their electronics rather than the person next to them. he began carrying a poster that simply said “Tell Me Your Story.” he then recorded the responses folks shared, once they got past asking him what he was doing. there is a write up about him in the South Philly Review. it doesn’t seem as though the website has launched yet, but it’s something i look forward to reading.
this story reminds me of why i write.
of how every time i meet someone i am interested in the rest of their story, beyond the short encounter. some people make me more curious than others, like the person you catch doing something bizarre only in passing. i have always been slightly more curious than most, but at times it has helped me give folks the benefit of the doubt. such as a rude customer i’ve encountered on a busy day at the bake shop. it’s made me remember that we all carry our pains and joys with us, though they look different on everyone.
i have spent years learning to listen. growing up in a family of new yorkers it’s been easy to talk to and/or talk over folks; each person trying to get a word in and no offense taken at the normalcy of constant chatter from everyone in the room. quiet only ensuing from one person taking over the room, usually one of the older folks, with a funny story or a bit of family history.
i grew up a shy little lady, but had plenty to say once i finally found my voice. trying to say everything i had kept quiet throughout the years without the wisdom of a practiced filter.
then i went to college in the south. in the south, it is very rude to talk at the same time as another person, especially someone older. i ended up hurting some of my dearest friends because i hadn’t quite learned that there was “…a time to be silent and a time to speak.” notice how silence comes first there.
it has taken me years of practicing. people tell me now that i am a good listener, that they feel cared for after a conversation. i still have trouble believing it at times because i remember the old version of myself. and i still have moments where the small whisper in my head reminds me: “stop. listen. they need to be heard.” on a good day, i do stop and listen.
thankfully we are ever new creations and grace abounds as we takes steps toward wholeness on this journey.
and the root of it is that i always feel so honored when someone shares their story with me. it’s a gift. most of the people we interact with or pass by or bump into will always remain anonymous to us, often not even getting their name, let alone learning their lives or their longer narratives.
every city i have traveled to i have tried to record the bits of story that i have been honored with. i write stories because i love them. i love the details of the person next to me, even as i am still learning them. i started this blog just for my family and friends as i traveled. but i have kept writing as i learn and get to share stories. because people are significant. they, we, are each uniquely molded. carrying the different joys, pains, sorrows and triumphs that make us. and to me that is incredibly beautiful.